Nothing to freak out over
Written by Joe Casey, Art by Benjamin Mara
Published by Image Comics
Emerging into an atmosphere of controversy when it was first announced in late 2018, Jesusfreak has been anticipated for some time. The graphic novel, a pulpy tale in similar vein to the likes of Conan the Barbarian depicts Christ as a ‘savage’ warrior struggling to find his way in the world. Jesusfreak, however, is more than a book geared to generate controversy and those who can handle its violence will be rewarded with an interesting presentation of Jesus’ life.
Jesusfreak is set in the ‘hidden years’ before Jesus’ ministry and depicts him as a young man, uncertain of his purpose in the world and suffering under the weight of the Roman occupation. Talking to John the Baptist, he gains a greater sense of God’s plan for him. According to Jesusfreak’s creator and writer Joe Casey, the book’s creators spent a lot of time researching Jesus’ context. This work is evident throughout, and the characters are visible in their first century socio-political context.
Benjamin Mara’s art stands out as a highlight, with everything from Roman centurions to giant lizards rendered in detail. Jesusfreak manages to capture a 1970s exploitation comic feel and looks constantly interesting.
Christians expecting to be offended by Jesusfreak may find themselves pleasantly surprised. The genre-specific depiction of Jesus as a fierce warrior obviously goes against his depiction in Scripture (and message of nonviolence), but the graphic novel gives him an interesting character arc in this regard as he learns more about who he is. The graphic novel’s creators manage to ‘get’ key parts of His message, albeit in a ridiculous genre setting. While taking place in the ‘hidden years’, many of the biblical story beats are present and will be familiar to Insights’ readers.
Casey told Insights that the graphic novel’s creative team were proud of the work, backed as it is by the freedom that Image Comics has bestowed upon them. In this, case, the company’s faith in its creators has proven to be warranted. Insights’ recommendation comes with a caveat: If the idea of Jesus as a fierce warrior offends, this may not be the book for you. Those readers willing to accept the concept as a genre feature will be rewarded with the story of Jesus as never seen before.
Jesusfreak is available now from comic book shops and bookstores. It is recommended for mature readers.
Jonathan Foye is Insights’ Editor